Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

J. Jennifer Jones


British Romanticism has traditionally been understood as participating in a narrative of progressive secularism. "Temperance in the Age of Feeling" seeks to challenge this narrative by examining the influence of temperance on Romantic conceptualizations of the relationship between sensation, thought, and feeling. I begin my argument by investigating Romantic notions of temperance as influenced by Book II of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. I claim that Romantic temperance differs from classical temperance because Romantic temperance is concerned with balancing mental faculties while classical temperance is concerned with moderating passions. Next I consider how temperance influenced Romantic theories of the relationship between the senses and the mind. Drawing on the study of neuro-Romanticism, I argue that Romantic medicine and Romantic poetry—most particularly Wordsworth’s poetry—shared a concern with the possible negative repercussions of sensory overstimulation. In my final chapter I engage with the overlap between temperance in Romantic theories of education, religious sermons from the period, and Wordsworth’s poetry. By looking at education theory with religious sermons and poetry I show the ways religious thought on temperance influenced many of the educational ideas and aesthetic ideals that continue to govern modern pedagogy. The three chapters are united by their preoccupation with the ways that typically religious ideals of temperance are woven into the ideas that shaped education, poetry, and mental health at the moment they were first becoming recognizably “modern.”



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